End of an era

Well, haven’t the last three years flown by! I am now officially a graduate of Durham University, having gained myself a 2:2 in Software Engineering. Matthew Dyson BSc (Hons) (Dunelm) does look rather good 😛 It was quite sad to wave goodbye to Durham for the last ever time (as a student, no doubt I’ll be back soon, having witnessed the carnage at the alumni weekend this time around!), and I’m starting to get a bit nervous about going off into the real world! I’m not ready to finish with the student lifestyle yet!

After a rather mad few days of interviews a month or so ago, I have been offered a job as a Technical Account Manager at OpenMarket Inc, and have since accepted – I’ll be starting with them in early September, and have now got the unenviable task of finding myself an affordable place to live in Chiswick, London. Eeek. I’m hoping to head down there next week to have a browse around some houses, we will see what happens…

Before all that, however, I’ve got to get myself sorted for the Jamboree in Sweden. I’ll be travelling out a week on Tuesday (that crept up fast!), and spending a couple of days as a tourist before turning up on site early to be part of the ‘build team’, and then spending my time during the Jamboree itself as part of the International Service Team – not got a clue what I’ll be doing yet!

Might actually get time to breathe after all that is sorted out… The nice relaxing summer I’d imagined isn’t really working out!


Well – it’s all done and handed in! Now the dust has settled a bit, I’ve decided to write a page on this site about my project “Can a distributed architecture be applied to profile-based e-learning”, giving details of why I started research in this field, what I discovered, and how I think it’s going to progress in future. All of the documents are available to view if anyone is bored interested enough to have a read!

You can view all the details on the new page – Dissertation

Now, that’s enough procrastinating – back to exam revision! 🙁


As part of my Software Applications module this year, I have a sub-module called Digital Imaging. Basically, we learned how to use Java3D to model things and then animate them.

The assignment set for this term was to create a wind turbine…


Above is what I created! Obviously you cannot see here, but the blades move round the appropriate axis, and the entire head of the turbine rotates around the Y-axis when you click on the mast. Pretty impressive – huh?! I didn’t think so either! If, for whatever reason, you do think it’s impressive – you may download the .jar file here. It will need Java3D and possibly some other stuff installed to run.

The main thing I learnt doing this was how much of a pain J3D really is – it’s a completely obsolete extension of Java that doesn’t really have much use, apart from for making simple animations such as this one. I can’t think of anyone who would use Java to make a serious 3D game, the processing power just isn’t there to allow decent use of physics, lighting or anything else essential to make an immersive environment. For example, when I was trying to make the turbine cast a shadow on its environment, I found it wasn’t just as simple as allowing the light source to throw a shadow onto the grass object – oh no – I had to calculate the exact shape that the shadow would be, based on the position of the light relative to the turbine, then draw it manually to the floor. As you can imagine, this would be a huge task – and lets not even get started on running this 40+ times a second to get the moving blades, or even considering the opacity of the shadow in different places, or the fact that multiple light sources exist, or that the turbine would shadow itself in parts…

I’ve used programs before (GameMaker stirs a memory?) that will do all that for you in 2 or 3 lines of code, however in J3D I was looking at separate classes, and 2 or 3 times the existing code I had to make the turbine work. No thanks, I’ll just pretend it was a very bright day!

I’m quite glad I’m rid of J3D now – I’ll be even happier when I’m rid of Java completely. I’d be really happy if I never had to see a wind turbine ever again… but they had to go and drop that into our Software Engineering project as well. More to follow on that…

The never ending list

Or more specifically – the never ending list of things to do that seems to dictate my life more than I do.

Over the last 3 months, I’ve watched said list grow and grow as my department shoved more and more assignment deadlines towards me, and watched the things I really want to do get moved gradually towards the bottom. This term has been a rather bumpy ride in terms of deadlines, assignments and exams – and I’m told it’s downhill from here! I’ll write some follow up posts soon showing off what I’ve achieved in creating recently (I’m actually proud of some of it!).

The happiest moment of my life occurred last week, when said list of ‘essentials’ finally reached zero, when the final assignment had been sent to the abyss that is known as ‘DUO’, and the end of term benchtest was over. I’m told that after spending a night out marking this occasion, I was heard celebrating in my room… Which involves me yelling a lot, before your minds jumped elsewhere!

Anyway – I get home, having promised myself a fortnight to enjoy Christmas before getting stuck down to work, and I find myself unable to even get started on that list of ‘want to do’ items. Congratulations to the CompSci department – they’ve killed my work ethic even for things that I enjoy!



Found that on the BBC website this morning – looks like a fantastic use of my departments research team! Maybe just an excuse for them to play Source games all day?!!

Basically, the team (headed by Dr Shamus Smith) took the Half-Life engine, added a map representing the CompSci department, and then used it to run a simulation about escaping from a fire in the building. Sounds like a good idea, in theory!

Found this very interesting:

"If a door was on fire, they [gamers] would try and run through it, rather than look for a different exit," said Dr Smith

I’d like to think that I’d go for a different exit anyway… or are all gamers retarded in that way? Hope they wouldn’t try a similar strategy in real life!

Really didn’t like how the university covered this though (http://www.dur.ac.uk/news/newsitem/?itemno=7525). Sure Half-Life is violent, but simulations have been around for ages!